ost of us don’t think about the process a fruit or vegetable takes before it enters our mouths, and why should we? Since man discovered the basics of farming it has been a relatively safe and simple process; soil enriched, seeds planted, and matured foods harvested for consumption. Late last March a branch of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), issued a report questioning the safety of modern farming. The report focused around glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide on earth with 283.5 million pounds being sprayed on American farmlands in 2012. The IARC and their panel of 17 scientists from around the world concluded that glyphosate is a “probable” cause of cancer. Glyphosate was discovered by John E. Franz in 1970 while working at Monsanto Company and was brought to market by Monsanto under the popular herbicide name Roundup. Roundup is often used on crops that have been genetically modified to resist it, a process where genes from a naturally resistant organism are inserted into the organism that is wished to be resistant, thus creating an entirely new species (which can be patented). This allows farmers to kill weeds but not their crops. “You ought to be a little concerned about glyphosate,” said Aaron Blair, a lead researcher on the IARC’s study.
There have been over 60 genotoxicity studies on glyphosate previously with none showing a connection between glyphosate and cancer. It has even been approved by regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency for worldwide use. Something to take into account is that nowhere in the report does the IARC indicate that a “probable carcinogen” means you will get cancer from using glyphosate, nor that it should be withdrawn from the market. Roundup itself has the benefit of being far less toxic than the pesticides it replaces. Still it begs the question, should something that destroys life be sprayed on the foods that us humans need to survive?